What Is a Renocation?

Updated: Apr. 10, 2024

Is a renocation all it's cracked up to be? We look at the recently coined term, and why you might consider one for your next renovation.

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Last time we took a big family vacation, we were gone for three weeks and came home to a pleasant surprise — our home had new windows and doors, exterior insulation and a new exterior color.

I suppose I shouldn’t call it a surprise, though. We left town knowing the work would be done while we were gone. I didn’t even know there was a name for it, but as it turns out, we took a renocation.

Let’s take a closer look, and consider whether you should plan a renocation next time you schedule a little (or a lot of) home improvement.

What Is a Renocation?

This trendy term has hazy origins, along with several definitions. But essentially, it merges vacation and renovation. (Think of it as the Brangelina of home improvement!)

Here are a few of the definitions we found:

  • The Urban Dictionary says renocation means using your vacation time to stay home and work on a renovation.
  • A USA Today article defines renocation as actually going on vacation with a mission to find design inspiration for your home renovation.
  • A campaign launched in 2021 from Pinterest and IKEA, called “Renocation,” encourages users to find Pinterest images of their dream vacations, then recreate that “on-vacation” feeling in their homes — with IKEA furnishings and accessories, of course.
  • Since at least 2015, another definition — the one we’re most interested in — calls a renocation a vacation you take while your home is being renovated.

With that last definition in mind, let’s hear from some experts (including renocation veteran, yours truly) about reasons to make your next vacation a renocation, as opposed staying close to home while renovations are in progress.

Why You Should Take a Renocation

“We love when clients go on vacation during renovations and have even paid for them to go to hotels during an installation week,” says Nicole Regan, a design assistant at Doxa Home, a boutique interior design studio based in Tampa, Florida.

“It’s great to have the homeowners out of town during this period, so that the designers can concentrate and address any issues that may arise.”

Even if your interior designer isn’t picking up your hotel tab, there are a lot of good reasons to consider a renocation:

  • You’re not there during messy, noisy, potentially dangerous demolition.
  • You skip the chaos of workers going in and out of your house all day, drilling, hammering and creating fumes.
  • You don’t have to deal with the inconvenience of not having a working kitchen, having water shut off periodically or entire rooms not being usable.
  • Workers can start work earlier and work later in the day, knowing they’re not disturbing homeowners.
  • You avoid the urge to micromanage the project and constantly look over the shoulders of contractors.
  • Some projects, like a roof replacement, may be so disruptive that it’s best to vacate the house anyway.
  • You come home to a finished project, and get the “Wow!” moment of seeing your renovated home for the first time.

Jaime Rogers, principal designer at Doxa Home, says renocations may only be practical for shorter-term renovations. “Some extensive renovations or whole house remodels take months, so this might not be an option for clients,” she says.

You still may need to, or prefer to, vacate the home during a long renovation. But it might involve finding short-term housing in the area, rather than taking an expensive months-long vacation.

“But if it’s something with a shorter timeline, like switching out kitchen or bathroom cabinets, we can arrange for the client to leave right before the demo and installation of a specific room,” Rogers says.

Speaking from experience, our renocation worked because we knew and trusted the people doing the work. My husband owns a construction business and has close relationships with all the contractors. Though we were on another continent while our renovation took place, he was still always a phone call away — time zones notwithstanding — in the event of some issue.

Why You Might Not Want To Take a Renocation

Sipping a tall, fruity cocktail on a tropical island, far from the chaos of your home renovation, may sound like the perfect plan. But it’s not all sunshine and sandy beaches.

Bill Berry, senior sales associate at Corcoran Icon Properties in San Francisco, renovated his own home and advised many clients on their own renovations. He found that leaving a remodeling project in the hands of others was just as stressful as sticking around for it.

Here are some potential downsides to being away while the work is done:

  • You’ll come home to a mess, especially if there’s no project manager supervising on your behalf. “Your contractor isn’t going to dust, sweep and vacuum for you,” says Berry.
  • Workers will make themselves at home in the owner’s absence. “Your bathroom will definitely get used and abused,” says Berry. “Leave plenty of toilet paper behind!”
  • You’re never really “away” from the job site. While we were out of town, my husband’s phone rang and pinged constantly, with calls and messages concerning the work at our house.
  • And, of course, things can go wrong. Berry recalls a day he was out of his home and “sheetrock went up before a few electrical outlets were in place. They had to add them after the fact and it delayed the completion time.”
  • You might not get what you asked for. That gorgeous sage green paint you picked out for the guest bathroom might be mis-ordered, and you’ll come home to chartreuse walls!
  • Vacations are expensive, and so are renovations. Combining the two may stretch your renovation budget beyond its limits.

Berry and the team at Doxa agree that going away for a renocation is risky. “You have to completely trust your contractor and his/her crew,” says Berry. “And still make sure you’ve picked out all your materials and paint colors before you leave. Don’t leave those choices to someone else.”

Rogers concurs. “If you don’t have a professional interior designer overseeing and managing the logistics of the project,” she says, “you wouldn’t want to leave this to a general contractor or installer without someone to check their work.”